Book Review: The Body Keeps the Score

BANG!

Trauma  = 1

Emotions = 0

Can diving into identifying and noticing our physical sensations as we explore our past trauma contribute to more comprehensive healing?  The essential takeaway from The Body Keeps the Score is recognizing the relationship between our cognitive and emotional awareness and memories of trauma and the physical impact on our bodies.

Many of us are familiar with the idea of flight, fight, or freeze when exposed to a fearful situation.  Whatever the response, as the title suggests, whether we remember the event or not, our body sensations retain the memory.  And this body memory often reminds us why we feel anxiety in certain situations whether we cognitively remember, or not.  Thank you body, for the memories …

At a fundamental level, a simple definition of trauma is an event that causes us fear.  One of my earliest memories is blowing up a balloon to the point it exploded in my unexpecting, four-year-old face.  Admiring the size of this growing, gigantic red beauty to … BANG!  It doesn’t sound like much.  And I survived it.  But consider the physical sensations I experienced.  More importantly, consider that my emotional process even lagged just behind the physical recognition of the exploding balloon.  Just how did my body absorb the blow?  Before I was even aware of what happened, my body responded to the BANG by protecting me by tensing up, eyes immediately closing, my body momentarily freezing, and ultimately relaxing when I was aware that all was well.

I don’t remember the next time I tried to blow up a balloon.  It’s likely I approached blowing one up again a bit more carefully.  Cognitively well aware of what could result.  What I wasn’t aware of is how my body reacted.  As the balloon grew the next time, it is likely my heartbeat became a bit more rapid and it’s possible my body slightly tensed up in the possible expectation it could explode.

How can the notion of our body keeping the score contribute to our healing from trauma?  Tracing both the physical sensations and emotions that accompany a trauma can help us prepare for and retrain our physical response.  Knowing that an outcome of fear is more rapid breathing which is related to anxiety, I can now approach blowing up a balloon mindfully aware that my breathing becomes more rapid, so I can work on mindfully breathing slower to reduce my anxiety towards blowing up balloons.

Thanks for reading and cheers to red balloons!

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